Winter's weight brings down roof at State Fair Cattle Barn

Part of the State Fair's cattle barn roof collapsed.
Minnesota State Fair officials say a section of the cattle barn's roof collapsed under the weight of snow sliding from an upper roof slope on Tuesday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Snow and heavy rain brought down a section of the State Fair's Cattle Barn roof Tuesday night, the latest casualty of a record-setting winter in the Twin Cities.

Fair officials said they believe snow slid from a higher point on the roof and the weight proved too much for a south-facing section of the roof along Como Avenue and near the fair's coliseum. The collapse is believed to have happened shortly after 6 p.m.

There were no animals or people inside at the time, and no one was hurt, although the wreckage landed on a handful of food trailers parked inside the barn for the off-season. The barn is used during nonfair times: it typically hosts some of the activities for the Minnesota Horse Expo, scheduled for the last weekend in April this year.

"During the winter months, livestock are not present on the fairgrounds, and the Cattle Barn is used for storage," fair officials said in a statement issued after the collapse. "Damage to the items in storage will be assessed in the coming days. The rest of the building remains structurally sound."

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The collapse appeared to affect a 40- or 50-foot section of the barn's roof, part of its brick exterior and some windows, which lay in pile of rubble beside the building.

St. Paul fire crews responded to the incident, although there was no fire. By 9 p.m. construction trucks and a State Fair police squad car were stationed outside the building.

The 117,000-square-foot barn was built in 1920, and is one of the oldest buildings on the grounds.

The damage is one of a handful of similar incidents across the state. Part of the roof of the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church building in Moorhead collapsed Sunday morning — although Mass had been canceled because of a storm that day and no one was in the church at the time. KARE-TV reported a section of the roof over a pool at a Shakopee motel collapsed Tuesday under the weight of snow and rain.

The station said a garage roof had collapsed on a collection of classic cars in Plainview and a section of roof over a hotel pool in Winona had also fallen in after heavy snow in recent days.

The damage comes after the National Weather Service reported 39 inches of snow fell in the Twin Cities last month, the snowiest February on record. It was also the fourth-snowiest month ever in Twin Cities climate records dating back to the 19th century.

Construction and maintenance experts said a large storm system forecast to bring heavy rain to the region this week poses a significant risk to roofs. The rain could add more weight to snow-covered roofs.

Up to an inch of rain is forecast for the Twin Cities Wednesday, and even more in western Minnesota. Flood watches are in effect through Thursday evening.